As the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon, Kathrine Switzer broke the gender barrier and paved the way for women in running.
Born into a military family stationed in Germany, Switzer later attended Syracuse University, earning a B.A. from the Newhouse School of Journalism (1968).
In 1967, Switzer registered for the Boston Marathon as ‘K. V. Switzer’. After the race began, the race director realized Switzer was a woman and attempted to forcibly remove her. However, she continued on and completed the course. Photos of this “Boston Incident” ignited the women’s running revolution at a time when popular theory held that women were not strong enough to run the 26.2 mile distance.
Thanks to the efforts of Switzer and others, women were officially allowed into road races in 1971. The next year, she earned her M.A. in public communications from Syracuse University.
In 1977, Switzer founded the Avon International Running Circuit, an initiative that created running programs in 27 countries for over 1 million women. These efforts eventually led to the inclusion of the women’s marathon as an official event in the Olympic Games. In 1984, 49 athletes from 28 countries ran the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon.
Switzer went on to simultaneous careers as a fitness expert, television broadcaster, author and public speaker. She formed her own company, AtAlanta Sports Promotions and is an Emmy Award-winning television commentator who has done broadcast work for ABC, CBS, NBC and ESPN. Switzer’s books include Marathon Woman and Running and Walking for Women Over 40.
Switzer has revolutionized the sport of running for women, while at the same time increasing awareness of healthy lifestyles and the importance of fitness. She once noted that, “Triumph over adversity, that’s what the marathon is all about. Nothing in life can’t triumph after that.”
A member of the inaugural class of the National Distance Running Hall of Fame (1998), Switzer was named one of four “Visionaries of the Century” by Runner’s World Magazine (2002), and has received the Abebe Bikila Award from the New York Road Runners Club for her global contribution to running (2003).
Still recognized as a leader in the running world, Switzer has completed over thirty-seven marathons and dedicated her career to creating opportunities and equal sport status for women.